When to Apply

For most people, before you can enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan, you must sign up for Original Medicare (Parts A and B). You can first enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan during your Initial Enrollment Period (IEP), which is a seven month time span that includes the three months before the month you turn 65, your birthday month and the three months after your birthday month. If you don’t enroll during your Initial Enrollment Period, you may have to wait to enroll during Medicare Open Enrollment, which is October 15-December 7. If you enroll later, your premiums could be higher.

Medicare Due to Disability

If you aren’t yet 65 but qualify for Medicare due to a disability, your 7-month IEP includes the month you receive your 25th disability check plus the 3 months before and the 3 months after.

General Enrollment Period

You may use the General Enrollment Period (GEP) to enroll in Medicare Part A, Part B or both if you miss your IEP. The GEP happens every year from January 1 to March 31. You may also choose to join a Medicare Advantage plan or a prescription drug plan from April 1 to June 30 the same year.

Special Enrollment Period: Working past 65

Late Enrollment Penalties

It’s important to know your enrollment dates and to enroll on time. The following penalties could apply if you don’t, unless you qualify for a SEP or another exception.

  • Part A: People who pay a premium (most don’t) could pay an additional 10% of the premium amount. The penalty is charged every month for twice the number of years enrollment was delayed.

  • Part B: You could pay an additional 10% of the premium amount for each full 12-month period enrollment is delayed. The penalty is charged every month for as long as you have Part B.

  • Part D: You could pay an additional 1% of the average Part D premium for each month you delay enrollment. The penalty is charged every month for as long as you’re enrolled in Part D.

  • Medicare supplement insurance: You could be denied coverage or charged a higher premium based on your health history.

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